For the last couple of weeks, I was trying to find some time to take a closer look at the Latvia Pavilion at the World Expo 2010 . Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to write something about the project before the Expo was over. But still, I would like to acknowledge this novel idea. (Plus, apparently the Pavilion will be up for an auction this Tuesday. If you have missed the fun in Shanghai, it might be time to call your local amusement park).
I called the Latvia Pavilion a novel idea, because the project team managed to come up with a non-traditional but still straight-forward concept to exhibit within a traditional event. It is difficult to make use of ‘events marketing’ as a participant, yet it is not impossible. Here is Latvia’s Expo 2010 concept:
Latvia’s strength lies in its people, who through their industriousness and creativity, have become among the world’s best specialists in their respective fields. They have proven that things can be done differently, and with excellent results…hrough the creative use of innovative technologies and inventions, they hope to improve the quality of life in their communities, in their country, and in the world at large. Such is the TECHNOLOGY OF HAPPINESS on display in the Latvian pavilion. Taken from http://www.latvijaexpo2010.lv/en/latvijas-paviljons/koncepcija/
Latvia, a country that has been labeled as Communist, Soviet, Eastern Bloc, Eastern Europe, Central Europe, new European, new EU member in less than twenty-five ears, makes use of Expo to demonstrate a less-known (and probably more-fun) part of itself and its people. The design shows the country’s technological capabilities. The fact that it is a ‘toy’ (Lack of a better word, I would call this miracle a toy in quotation mark) shows the place of ‘fun’ in Latvian daily life.
When it comes to nation branding, several countries actually act with an image restoration understanding. There is always a seriousness, a desire to apologize, an eagerness to correct misinformation. But such messages only reach the interested audience. What if a visitor at Expo 2010 has no interest in Latvia, how can you communicate with him or her? Who will not stop to see a few people flying in a pavilion? This causal approach, I claim, helped Latvia to reach several people who would otherwise not be interested in learning about the country.
Moreover, we aspire to become overachievers in nation branding campaigns. If you look at the major definitions in the literature, they talk about policy changes, involvement of several agencies, high-level communication strategies etc. Even though, it is true that a large-scale nation branding program is likely to include several different aspects but a single project/campaign should be simple and straightforward. The messages should not bore the audiences. (I am 99% sure that Pavilion did not bore anyone).
Finally, the Pavilion project was supported by online communication technologies. Apart from the website and blog, the project was active on Twitter. The Vimeo Channel is still active and includes around fifty videos.
Long story short, The Latvia Pavilion was a successful and original nation branding project idea. Changing the perception of a nation necessitates more than a project (or more than a collection of project). Countries are obliged to have long-term strategies. However, these ideas are effective in short term. Expo 2010 was a media opportunity for all the participants, and Latvia cleverly used this opportunity.
PS: English subtitles would have been great in this video.